At the end of July, the FDA announced plans to reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to ‘non-addictive’ levels in a new effort to help smokers kick the habit and prevent smoking-related diseases and deaths in America.
Nicotine is not one of the harmful chemical in cigarettes that causes cancers and disease, however the FDA aims to reduce the addictiveness of cigarettes by regulating nicotine levels in the hope that: smokers who are currently addicted will quit and the likelihood that future generations will become addicted will decrease.
This nicotine reduction policy will not include e-cigarettes or other tobacco products like cigars, pipe tobacco and hookah tobacco, but all of these products will undergo review and approval as early as 2021.
As this news was announced, tobacco shares plummeted and many Americans reacted positively to the news. Not everybody is convinced by the plan though, as many feel Big Tobacco will fight the regulations and other anti-smoking experts believe it could send a mixed message about nicotine.
A Public Health initiative or further funding for Big Tobacco?
While Americans may see this nicotine regulation as a step in the right direction, some experts in the UK disagree as Deborah Arnott, CEO of Action and Smoking and Health (ASH) said:
“Putting forward the idea of low nicotine cigarettes risks confusing smokers far too many of whom already think nicotine is harmful when actually it’s the smoke in cigarettes which does the damage. Much more relevant is making sure smokers who can’t quit are encouraged to switch to less harmful products like nicotine patches or gum, or e-cigarettes.”
This ‘non-addictive’ cigarette may seem like a good idea on paper, however could the policy actually have an adverse effect and fall neatly into the hands of Big Tobacco?
You may remember the surge of low-tar cigarettes which were supposedly put in a place as a public health initiative.
ASH were sceptical about this introduction at the time as Clive Bates, Director of the organisation at the time said:
“So-called low tar cigarettes are a grotesque confidence trick that’s been running for over twenty years. The tobacco industry has deliberately fooled millions of smokers into false reassurance in the hope they will carry on smoking rather than quit. Brands described as mild, light and low should not even be on the market as they suggest a health benefit where there isn’t one.”
“People may actually be dying from this deception. If a smoker decided to switch to a lower tar brand rather than give up, he or she is locked into the usual smoking risks of death and illness. The information on the packs and adverts is not only misleading, it is potentially harmful, and for some, it may be fatal.”
In a similar fashion, would low nicotine cigarettes not just entice smokers to go through more cigarettes in order to receive the nicotine hit they crave, consuming higher doses of the harmful chemicals that accompany it in the meantime?